Editor’s Note: The following contains Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness spoilers.On May 6th, 2022, Marvel Studios released the follow-up to 2016’s Doctor Strange with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness by director Sam Raimi. The much-anticipated sequel is now available to stream on Disney+. In addition to full trailers, Marvel marketing pumped out action packed teasers and TV spots in the weeks preceding the movie’s original release. Yet one of the sequel’s major characters remained shrouded in mystery throughout all the advertising. Actress Xochitl Gomez made her MCU debut in Multiverse of Madness as the Marvel comics hero, America Chavez. She can be frequently glimpsed in teaser and trailer footage, and she features prominently in some promotional images for the film, but much of the marketing focus was spent on Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Despite this, the number of different scenes and settings in which America can be spotted in trailers indicated she would spend a significant portion of the runtime as part of the main crew along with Wong (Benedict Wong) and Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). Now that the movie is out, we now know that America Chavez is the keystone to the entire story.
Marvel Studios makes a habit of giving new additions to their ever expanding lineup a special spotlight in the run-up to their appearance, but aside from a midair punch with a suspicious cutaway, America was mostly a wallflower. So what gives? It could be that America Chavez is a relatively new hero in the grand scheme of things, having only been created 11 years ago, compared to the decades-long history of her on-screen compatriots. What is more likely, however, is that because America is so integral to the plot of Multiverse of Madness, Marvel Studios simply couldn’t show us too much for fear of spoilers. After all, we know Marvel was hiding some other big players. In order to understand why America Chavez is so important for this era in Marvel Studio’s infinite tapestry, some basic knowledge of her comic book background is essential.
America Chavez was created in 2011 by Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta for their limited series Vengeance. As a member of a new iteration of the Teen Brigade, America supported the big league superheroes from behind the scenes and fought against the Young Masters of Evil when they attempted to assassinate a string of supervillains. With her superhuman strength, endurance, durability, and flight ability, America served as the powerhouse of the young team. She can move at the speed of light and has been known to punch enemies into tiny little star fragments. What’s really special about America is that she can punch open star-shaped portals to other realities and travel through them. Others are able to use these portals, making America’s powerset a multiversal traversal tool. Whether she uses these portals to get to their mission objectives, or as a quick getaway, she provides an invaluable strategy to any superhero team. She is also able to use these portals offensively, as a kind of interdimensional buzzsaw.
With Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness living up to its title, America is kept incredibly busy in the film. The lack of a promotional highlight on America Chavez may very well be due to Marvel Studios wanting to keep her star portals a surprise– and we don’t have to wait long into its runtime to see them. America blasts open a huge star portal within the first few moments of the movie, and the visual effects involved are best reserved for the theater, or for a home-viewing experience. Although she can’t quite control her powers yet, America helps Doctor Strange hop between worlds in the multiverse as he tries to protect her from Wanda. But why does Strange even need someone like Chavez to travel the multiverse? Doctor Strange may draw his sorcerer’s powers from the energies of the multiverse, but it’s another matter entirely to travel the multiverse itself. We also learn the Scarlet Witch, a magic-user more powerful than Strange, cannot freely travel through the multiverse– even with the aid of a powerful dark artifact like the Darkhold. The world of sorcery and dark magic can get a little grim, and with the power to travel the multiverse being packaged into a jean-jacketed teenager, the Doctor Strange sequel springs for a delightful and refreshing change in tone.
In the comics, after her stint with the Teen Brigade, America left the group and in Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers helped form the titular team, assisting the teen heroes with star portals and combat prowess as they adventured through the universe. Curiously, several members of the Young Avengers have already appeared in the MCU in one form or another: Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) in Hawkeye, Kid Loki (Jack Veal) in Loki, Patriot (Elijah Richardson) in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Wiccan (Julian Hilliard) and Speed (Jett Klyne) in WandaVision. With Wiccan and Speed returning in Multiverse of Madness, and with Kathryn Newton taking on the role of Cassie Lang (otherwise known as the hero Stature) in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, it seems highly probable that momentum is gaining for a Young Avengers outing in the MCU. With America running alongside big league heroes like Doctor Strange in the midst of a multiversal crisis, there’s a distinct feeling that Marvel Studios is setting the stage for a future teen venture.
During the 2015 Secret Wars storyline by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribić, America proved vital in surviving the collapsing multiverse with her abilities, and she served as a member of the all-female A-Force team. Moving around between teams such as the Ultimates and the West Coast Avengers, America has proven to be a welcome addition to the mainstay pantheon of Marvel heroes over the past decade. Notably, America Chavez is the first Latin-American LGBTQ+ character to lead her own ongoing series, America by Gabby Rivera and McKelvie, and hopefully America’s inclusion in the MCU will bring additional representation to the screen.
America’s backstory is a bit of a contentious point among comic readers, as her origins have been retconned in recent issues. Originally, America hailed from a reality beyond time known as the Utopian Parallel, a realm overseen by an entity called the Demiurge who granted her superpowers. After losing both of her mothers, she left home and roamed the multiverse as a vigilante, working under the name Miss America, a title that hasn’t been used in the Marvel continuity since the 1950s. In May of 2021, America Chavez: Made in the USA by Kalinda Vasquez and Carlos Gomez revealed her upbringing in an alien universe as a very vivid coping mechanism. Instead, America was raised by her scientist mothers on a fantastical private island called Utopian Parallel as they searched for a cure for the Edges Syndrome disease – a genetic illness that America and her sister Catalina had inherited. Her powers surfaced as a result of her illness going into remission, and when America’s parents refused to let her be experimented on by the research heads of the island, they were killed and, unable to rescue her sister, America escaped via star portal.
In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, both versions of America’s backstories are mixed together and injected with some new ideas. While Strange and America are wandering the streets of Earth-838, they stumble upon Memory Lane, where a person can relive moments from their life. Memory Lane shows America the moment she first used her powers and how it resulted in tragedy. It shows America as a young girl with her mothers in a place that looks very much like Utopia, and her mothers certainly look the part of scientists. When America accidentally opens her first portal, both of her moms get sucked in and presumably either dead or stranded in an alternate reality. America never saw them again. On the comic pages, America’s parents always met their end in a self-sacrificial manner, but having America be responsible for their fates puts an exciting new spin on her origin story.
It’s this pivotal moment in her life that gives America her primary character arc in the film, as she needs to learn how to trust herself and control her powers if she has any hope of protecting herself from Wanda. While she may gain more confidence in herself, the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of her parents are left unresolved. It’s a safe bet to say that Multiverse of Madness barely scratches the surface of what’s in store for America Chavez. Considering the loose threads left hanging with her parents and her training at Kamar-Taj, Phase Four of the MCU’s dedication to all things multiverse, and the wealth of comics material to draw from, Chavez is bound to play a big role in Marvel Studios’ future. So pick up one of her titles, and get hyped to see her punch a giant glowing star portal right out of your TV screen in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness now streaming on Disney+ starting June 22nd.
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